Left Atelectasis

by Sam Malone

Atelectasis is a condition that affects lungs. In atelectasis, air sacs or alveoli in the lungs fail to expand to their normal size, which prevents the adequate or proper air exchange. These air sacs are crucial in supplying oxygen to the body and for expelling the carbon dioxide from the body.
When these air sacs fail to rise, the body does not get the required amount of oxygen to function. If atelectasis occurs with a few air sacs, the person can function normally. It becomes a problem only when a large number of lung cells are crushed. In such cases the body starts to show symptoms of receiving less oxygen.

Some of the common symptoms are breathlessness, difficulty breathing, fatigue, anxiety, and in severe cases, a bluish tinge to the skin. This bluish tinge occurs because the skin and the organs are not receiving an adequate amount of oxygen.

The causes of atelectasis are mostly other conditions that affect patients. Surgery or injury is usually common causes for atelectasis. Surgery especially abdominal surgery usually causes this condition during recuperation. Patients are encouraged to not breathe deeply or avoid coughing to help the wound heal faster. Not taking deep breaths sometimes causes air sacs to collapse. Sometimes infections like tuberculosis or pneumonia can also cause atelectasis. Physical obstructions like a mucus plug or inhaling a foreign object or even a tumour can result in atelectasis.

Atelectasis in the left lower lobe is common in patients with a heart history. It usually happens to patients especially in the ICU or the intensive care. The primary reason for this condition is because when a person is lying down, the heart compresses the left lower lobe of the lungs leading to collapse of the air sacs there. For patients who suffer from left atelectasis, the condition can be divided into three phases:

  • Mild Atelectasis: This is not clinically significant for the patient and he can function normally
  • Lungs in heart patients also show basilar shadowing. Basilar shadowing is the appearance of linear streaks on the lungs. This form of atelectasis is also called subsegmental or discoid atelectasis.
  • Acute Atelectasis: When the patient suffers from acute or severe atelectasis, it will lead to a volume loss in lungs which will also lead to a visual increase in tissue density as the lung collapses, along with crowding of ribs, crowding of blood vessels, and a shift in the hemidiaphragm
Left basal atelectasis is also known as left base atelectasis or left basilar atelectasis or left lung atelectasis. These are different ways to say that the patient suffers from atelectasis in the left lung. Depending on the severity of the infection or the cause, the doctor will determine whether the entire left lobe has collapsed or parts of it suffer from atelectasis.

The treatment of left base atelectasis is usually treating the condition that has lead to it. Most patients who suffer from this anomaly are also usually being treated for the heart condition that has caused it. If the damage to the left lobe is minor then once the heart is hale and hearty, this condition corrects itself.

There are some preventive steps that can help reduce the damage when the patient is lying supine. Try and do some deep breathing exercises. Deep breaths help expand your entire lung which helps the alveoli work efficiently. If possible, even get these patients to occasionally cough to clean the mucus that could accumulate in the lungs. Preventing this accumulation could prevent atelectasis in the long run.

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001130/
  2. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000065.htm

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